Saturday, August 25, 2007

Radio One More Time: The University Of Turmoil

We fear change

Danny Baker's arrival at Radio One should have been a triumph. And, in many ways, it was. Baker was fresh from the old Radio Five, quitting just a couple of months ahead of the network closing down to make way for Five Live - "when I suggested I might be going to Radio One, they weren't that bothered...". Although he hadn't managed to single-handedly save the station, he did at least pull it together to such a position that it was able to live out its final days in some sort of dignity. The "Morning Edition - and stick with it" baseball caps notwithstanding.

However, Baker was given a tricky beat - the old DLT slot, still warm from the departing dudgeon of the beared one, and probably the slot with the most conservative of all Radio One programmes. Gone was the snooker and the reassuring tales of life on a home counties farm with a Swedish wife, in came callers putting on rollerskates two sizes too small zooming over bubble wrap and a cast that included a Radio Five newsreader, the former editor of the NME and a man who sounded, well, working class.

The sudden shift in style was something of a leap - certainly bigger than Matthew Banister's other changes, such as the gentle fading out of Simon Bates to make room for Simon Mayo. In fact, Baker admitted to Mojo that he didn't even have a radio style as such: he just did what he thought radio was - a lot of talking with records plucked from a pile on the basis of what you want to hear next.

If Danny Baker is a bit of a acquired taste, the strongest thing on the menu was The University of Turmoil. Over the course of the programme, Danny Kelly would select images from that day's newspapers, usually of alarmed or worried looking people or animals, stick them on pieces of paper with the word "Turmoil" written on them - maybe with an inappropriate headline added on for good measure. The last page would deviate from the formula with the appearance of the phrase "WE FEAR CHANGE". Towards the end of the programme, Kelly would pass over the folder and - seeing his handiwork for the first time - Baker would attempt to describe the contents to the audience, hoping to get through the feature before his head hurt too much from laughing.

You had to be there. It was inspired.

Although, admittedly, not everyone who was there agreed.

Baker became the focus for most of those upset by the new sound of the station - quickly losing the Sunday slot, and eventually losing the Saturday one as well. However, by taking most of the heat generated over the new schedules, Baker effectively bought the space for the other changes to bed down and saved Radio One in a way that Chris Moyles could only dream of.

The University Of Turmoil resurfaced - just once - a couple of months ago on Baker's BBC Radio London show, for the first time in over a decade. It still is bloody inspired.

[Celebrating 40 years of Radio One: Radio One More Time]


Anonymous said...

This show was fantastic. I loved how the phone-in subjects were absurdly specific - While local commercial radio was asking us to join their latest battle-of-the-sexes debate ("Giggly sidekick Sharon says women are the best drivers, but I know that's rubbish, so tell us what you think!"), Danny Baker was asking us to call him if we knew someone who almost had the same name as a celebrity, but not quite ("My boss is called Les O'Connor", etc). And yet it always worked, and it was a hoot.

My favourite stunts were when he was as testing out cartoon theories. One was a man cycling down a hill into a pond, to see if his hat followed him above water. Another was a caller filling a trumpet with soap to see if notes came out in bubbles when played.

I remember seeing DLT on one of those documentaries about the Radio 1 changes a few years ago. It was a long time after his replacement (Baker had long gone), but he still clearly hadn't accepted it. He explained how a fellow old-guard DJ had phoned him during Baker's first show and gasped "Have you HEARD what they've done to your show?!". Neither could believe that snooker on the radio had been replaced by a phone-in asking listeners if they'd ever got a child's sucker-based toy stuck to their foreheads.

And yes, Turmoil was fantastic...

Anonymous said...

Danny Baker makes me yawn. And his podcasts are absolute guff. Them gay yanks do nothing but massage his ego by laughing at his lame jokes.

Now that people have to pay to listen to that horse shit, I'm sure it'll all go tits up and he'll go back to the BBC with his tail between his portly legs.

Simon said...

Myself, I suspect he'll be going back to the BBC when he comes back from holiday, given he's still doing the BBC London afternoon show.

When it hit its stride this was a fantastic free-flowing show, completely at odds with everything else on national radio through, as you say, the simple expedient of not having planned anything bar a couple of notes jotted down in the car on the way to the studio and letting the listeners and events do the rest. It's fascinating to think that in the 90s he had three seperate peaks on three different national radio stations - this, Morning Edish Radio Fish and whatever he and Kelly's All Talking Radio show was called that week ("don't be a bitch and be walked on a leash, phone up Talk Radio where we believe in free speesh") I think the documentary James refers to was the edition of Blood On The Carpet about the Bannister era in 2001 where Adrian Juste (this was where the aforementioned 'anarchic funster' tag came from) talked about having to "pick the station up off the floor" every week, something whoever followed Juste at any one time should have known all about.

And apparently it was Universe Of Turmoil but Baker read it wrongly in its first week.

Colonel Knowledge said...

Re-live Turmoil here:

KDog said...

Turmoil was the pinnacle of public radio. There can be no doubt about this. I agree that you had to be there, as I am often reminded when trying to explain Turmoil to people (notably my wife). The reason it worked so well was that you got to hear a bunch of mates laughing so so much, it was spontaneous, genuine and uncontrollable laughter, to the point that the mic's were shut off to let everyone recover (the theme was "Hats Off to Islam!"). With such legendary radio as the benchmark, it makes me cirnge to think of zoe ball and that outfit muddling through mediocre schtick.

Anyway, kudos to the person posting this info and keeping Turmoil alive. Much respect!

Anonymous said...

I was there with K Dog! It was truly inspired radio and I am happy and proud to say I still have a few episodes of Turmoil on tape (home taping is killing radio though, kids so don't do it!)

I remember almost having to pull off the M1 during one show because my head hurt and I couldn't see - not good driving conditions at all!

The Turmoil tradition is kept alivein small pockets of resistance and long may this continue!!

Anonymous said...

Turmoil makes me cry with laughter.

Anonymous said...

University of Turmoil was genius! I can still see the Pope with turmoil written on his head in my memory even now.

Also "it's the only car I ever buried in my garden" was my favourite audience pleading line.

I'm number 33 in the Treehouse and miss it soo much.

Not everyone gets it but we all need ten minutes of laughing till you cry in our days so don't knock it.


Sapientum said...

Here's a complete collection of Turmoil for anyone still in the dark.

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